Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Tonight, Abby’s strong, slighter but still slightly pudgy hand grasped my own, age-spotty, bony one, which boldly shows my 37 years of living. As she traced the blue veined topography of my hand, I was transported back to admiring my own mother’s veined timepiece, feeling her knuckles (and even the spot where there isn’t a knuckle because of long-ago dog bite). When I was young, I coveted her hands and wished that my own, flawless yet immature hands could look like hers. “Be careful what you wish for…”, my mom said. I did not heed her advice and now I have the same, time-tested hands. As I remembered these long-ago moments with my mom, I felt my past intertwine with Abby’s; I felt as if Abby was me and I was my mom, 30 years ago. We were suspended somewhere between past and present. I bounced back to the now, with my fingers intertwined with my daughter’s, when she announced that she wants her hands to look like mine.

Henry’s dimpled, pudgy hands still hold the silky texture of fresh, new skin. I adore holding his hand, rubbing its silkiness like a talisman. Tonight, I lay on his bed as we whispered goodnight sweet nothings. His hypnotic hands rhythmically stroked my hair and almost put me to sleep. Later, I went to check on him. And I stared as his hands, calmly resting, regaining energy for tomorrow’s expidentures. The dim, soft nightlight cast shadows in his dimples. I felt still and the moment paused to imprint itself to my memory.

I see my children’s hands, any hand, and see life illustrated. Hands can bring past moments alive by seemingly suspending time. I hope I can oblige in years and moments to come, by recanting hundreds of snippets and synapsed recollections of our lives. Soft hands, dirty hands, hands with finger-nails needing trims, sticky hands, angry hands, forgiveness-seeking hands, feverish hands, holding hands, story-telling hands, independent hands, loving hands. Promise-filled hands, hopefully still periodically reaching for, and holding onto mine.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Perfect Eviction

I am not perfect. A perfect parent I am not and nor will I ever be. But I used to try to be perfect and mentally punched myself around when I didn’t measure up on the perfect stick. In my earlier mommy days, I proudly carried the inauspicious badge of perfection. I wanted to feel everything the right way and be all things to this fragile new life. At many times, I was everything. But I’ve now realized that my earnest attempts at being ideal created quite the quagmire.

Trying to live to a prescribed script left me destined to disappoint. I’ve experienced times when I was so angry with my kids that I had to remove myself from their presence. I never read about THAT in a parenting book. I have dust bunnies in my home. And my kids misbehave and throw two-hour tantrums. I too, on occasion, misbehave. Dinner isn’t already planned and smushed blueberries exist on my floor for many, many days. Naturally, I’ve experienced many life moments that have been the opposite—full of light and joy. But I believe that in order to fully appreciate these, life provides contrast with the other, darker moments.

So I’ve had it. My perfection quest (and all associated frustrations) have finally illuminated the way to imperfect bliss. Calm and acceptance have transformed the space its previous “perfect” tenant occupied. I evicted perfection. I stopped aspiring for flawlessness and started embracing limitations, stains and mistakes.

It has since dawned on me that real parenthood is much like real marriage. Contrary to my early, romantic and naïve views, marriage is not always fairytales and sunset departures, unless you’re Cinderella. My naiveté provided me with a Cinderella-take on parenthood, too. In this swooning tale, Cindy and Princey live a rosy life where bluebirds rock their children to sleep while they make sweet love in the enchanted forest. Amazingly, neither of them work but money is always forthcoming. Cindy still wears a size zero (one-hour after giving birth). The babies don’t poop or cry, throw-up or throw tantrums or throw trucks.

Although I used to aspire to some varied version of that life, I now reject it. The brightest spots of my life are illustrated through the smoky screen of mistakes, dirt and frustration. So now, instead of striving for the unattainable, I savor the reality of life as a real wife and mom, with real children (and a very real husband). Happily. I embrace my imperfections and discard my impossible perfection quest. And not too surprisingly, this delivers many days when my own muddled life, tumbled agonies, and soaring growth impart immeasurable joy. Hopefully, my imperfection grants my children the same reprieve, allowing life to be lived and experienced, not perfected.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Mother's Day

The day started with a lovely, ferocious thunderstorm. Dark and foreboding, it beckoned us to our rumpled beds. Fortunately for this mother, hubby took morning duty and I slept in cozy, rainy splendor until 7:45 am. (My requested wake-up time.)

My wake-up call arrived on padded feet, gently singing “Happy Mother’s Day” (to the tune of Happy Birthday). The lights remained off and I smelled yummniess—a hot cup o’ joe and a homemade egg, bacon, cheese sandwich. I lazily propped myself up and received hugs and kisses and squeezes. Then I read three tender, loving and beautiful cards. My heart lifted. I felt a bit like Mary Poppins with the love of my family lifting me up like a magic umbrella.

The loveliness continued with a morning-long snuggle in those warm, rumpled sheets. In between the snuggles, we did deal with some slight injuries and tears (from attempted backflips off of Mommy and Daddy's really high bed) and heart-felt screaming tantrums (from Henry when Abby accidentally sat in his self-proclaimed area of the bed). After crocodile tears dried, Henry serenaded us with a rousing, rockin’ version of “God Our Father”. Abby then suggested “The Star Spangled Banner”.

We all placed our hands on our hearts, and in molted, assorted keys, we all gloriously sang. And our imperfect, early morning voices, joined together in the moment and were, in fact, perfect.

My lyric response to my children today is this:

You anchor me.

You are my past and my future.

Your silky skin and the smell of your slightly sweaty head hypnotize me.

Your resilience, tenderness and intelligence continually amaze me.

Your love humbles me.

Thank you for still believing I hung the moon, even on the days when I’ve sent you with a one-way ticket to said moon.

On sad days, when you try to stop crying and your bottom lip quivers like a tectonic plate on a fault line, my heart quakes open. Your resolution to stop crying makes my own tears fall.

Life is imperfect—like me, like you—but it is stippled with sheer joy and punctuated by warm hearts and buoyant souls.

Because of you, I am a better person.

Because of you, I am a mommy.

Because of you, I am honored with the privilege of celebrating this rainy, wonderful, dark, singing, snuggling, crying, loving, rumpled, soulful day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Free Time

“Play is the way a child learns what no one can teach him. It is the way he explores and orients himself to the actual world of space and time, of things, structure and people. Play is a child’s work.” – L.K. Frank

I couldn’t agree more. At times I feel like a shoddy mother when I let my kids entertain themselves rather than playing with them, teaching them and being involved in each thing. But when I see the games, stories, structures and fantasies they create when left to their own devices, my amazement at their ingenuity erodes any guilt.

Naturally, organized activities, lessons, teachers and the like hold an important and critical spot in their lives. Just not EVERY spot in their lives.

I’m gonna round file the guilt and watch them prosper. Here’s to free time, filled with my children's work.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Post Script

As the school year begins to dwindle, I’ve thought back to the start of this academic year. As those of you who’ve read my blog know, I struggled a bit (ok, a TON) when Abby started Kindergarten. I slowly and patiently prepared her, but forgot to prepare myself. Abby experienced not a moment of fear or apprehension—her confidence played the vibrant melody to my dissonant harmony.

I knew, even back then, that we’d (I’d) hit a stride during the school year despite my aching heart, gaping at the prospect of my baby heading to school each day. I was right—we found a great, rhythmic pace of learning, separation and growth, with daily regroupings to dissect the day. Abby’s joyful (albeit tired) embrace of school dragged me from my private doldrums into the role of joyful participant. Occasionally though, after I’d dropped Abby off at school, I’d linger and watch her disappear into the school building. Occasionally, my heart would break right open again (just as it did in August) and I’d wonder how we’d gotten to this point in her maturation. Now we’re a month away from summer break. The time, as they say, flies.

Henry will be three next month. He’s morphed from a chubby toddler to a young, bright, rambunctious boy. Abby is no longer a little girl. She’s stretched out, lost two teeth and her baby fat. I can see her ribs and knees. We’re reading science books with words like “courting” and “mating”.

(I have girlfriends, by the way, with daughters who have started puberty. In hushed voices, they confide about the physical changes of their daughters’ bodies. Seeing those daughters, with their bra straps showing subtly under their shirts, makes me gasp for air. Bra straps lead to first kisses, commencement speeches, young marriages and round baby bumps.)

As my own children grow, I understand that we are simultaneously years and moments away from these milestones. I experience brief glimmers and pangs of an empty nest—I realize that I prime my children for departures, journeys and landmarks, but often do not extend the same courtesy to myself. Hubby and I encourage the kids to grow and hope they will let go. But we don’t prepare our minds and hearts for our own empty hands. I fear, however, that if I start prepping myself for their not-so imminent exits into the big world, I will loose the peace and joy of the current minute.

So, I try to cherish the lumps and the loveliness of each stage of their lives. This presents a true challenge (especially when I’m wrangling a wet, almost 40 pound, exhausted and screaming Henry out of the tub, or when I’m dealing with a sassy, tired Abby). But I continue to attempt to strike a balance between fully appreciating the gift of each moment AND realizing that it won’t last forever.

For now, I will treasure this minute as both kids sleep under our roof. I’ll enjoy the scent of their baby wash on my hands, fresh from bathing those sweet angels who will awake before the sun tomorrow.